You can hear the audio version of the Tele Town Hall here. The text below was transcribed from this recording.
RF: I hope you’ll take this opportunity to share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. I welcome them. If you’d like to ask me a question or make a comment, you can press the “0” key on your telephone at any time.
Before we begin, allow me to make a few introductory remarks while people get on the line. I conduct these live telephone town halls because it enables me to get thousands of people together at one time. And it gives everyone on the line… that is, gives everyone on the line, the opportunity to pass along a question or concern to me. I do them regularly and will continue to hold them. You can sign up from my website… sign up at my website, at frelinghuysen.house.gov. It’s available to everyone in the Congressional District.
In addition to my being <inaudible> every week, telephone town halls serve as a valuable tool for me to hear from over 700,000 people in the 54 towns of New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District. I’m here to listen to you. As I crisscross our Congressional District these days, I found people very engaged on almost every issue. From health care, to high taxes, to improving job opportunities, immigration, border security, national defense, ISIS, the needs of our veterans and their families, every issue. I look forward to hearing your comments on any issues you might want to discuss this evening. Again, please don’t hesitate to hit the “0” at any time to ask me a question or make a comment. And also please visit my website at frelinghuysen.house.gov. There you can sign up for me weekly e-newsletter and send <inaudible> emails, I’m listening.
Let’s take the first call from John in Morristown, thanks for getting on the line. John in Morristown.
John: Hi, Congressman Frelinghuysen, how are you?
RF: How are you? Thanks for getting on the line.
John: Fine. My question is this: there’s been a lot of discussion about the healthcare bill. And according to reports, although you know you can’t always believe what you hear on the television, that they’re gonna make it more difficult to hire persons over 50. And I was wondering if you know anything about that, and would you vote for that? Because repealing Obamacare was supposed to make the healthcare more affordable, not -
RF: I’ve never heard any comments either under the existing Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, or any discussion about replacement proposals that had placed any sort of a limit on hiring people based on age. I do think that -
John: Well, it wasn’t a limit, it was just a, it would allow the insurance companies to charge more for older workers, whereas the Obamacare does not permit that. And do you know if that’s… can you confirm that, or no?
RF: I quite honestly don’t know. We don’t, we don’t have anything to look at. I think the committees of jurisdiction are taking a look at what should be in the replacement bill. The thing that I focus on is obviously making sure that we guarantee people with pre-existing conditions, that’s an issue, and I also believe we ought to hold onto those young people.
John: See that was quite an issue -
John: - with the children’s healthcare program. That when they came out with that, they were letting people with children work with Medicaid, and, you know, and then college-age kids who were on their parents’ insurance, it was more viable to hire them. And so they really put a burden on people over 50, we know who have college degrees and who have experience, that it was financially not too viable to hire that type of person. And I’m just wondering if you’ll keep that in mind when formulating this new healthcare policy.
RF: Yeah, I think that certainly should be a focus. I’d not heard that, but certainly thank you for bringing it to my attention. Marilyn in Montville, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, you’ve joined my telephone Town Hall meeting.
Marilyn: Yes, my question -
Marilyn: My question is, I read in the paper that the property tax that we pay, which is now a deductible expense on our federal income tax is in danger of being eliminated. And as you know, property taxes in New Jersey are one of the highest in the country. And so, that would be… we’re senior citizens, and that would be a burden on us to have that deduction eliminated.
RF: You should know I support having that property tax being deductible. I also support the continuation of the charitable contribution. I think we want obviously more people to continue to be generous in our society. And so there’s been some talk… I’m not supportive of it.
Marilyn: Okay, well, at least that’s one good thing.
Marilyn: And I was wondering what… You know, I would hope, that in light of all the political controversies that are going around today, that you just wouldn’t vote along Republican lines all the time. I mean, it would be good if you could vote according to your, according to your district, and your district is changing.
RF: Let me assure you that… there have been reports sometimes, articles written… I have always voted on behalf of my constituents in northern New Jersey. I have always voted my conscience. And when I go to about ninety schools a year, usually juniors and seniors in high school, I always say I always vote on behalf of New Jersey. I’ve looked after New Jersey priorities: Picatinny Arsenal, the Harbor Deepening Project, the Veterans’ Administration Alliance. So there’s a view on procedural votes, yes, I think it’s important for our majority to stick together. But on things that are important like Hurricane Sandy, what I did to, shall we say, beat back some of my fellow Republicans. Memories are short in certain quarters, but it was a Frelinghuysen amendment that looked after New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut after Hurricane Sandy. That was -
Marilyn: Because I know you’re the chairman of a very important committee now, and it’s important that, as you say, to vote your conscience, and to vote what your constituents want. But you know what? Say, even defunding Planned Parenthood, that would be very serious.
RF: Let me tell you where I am.
Marilyn: Yes, tell me where you are.
RF: I’m respectful of people with views on Planned Parenthood. I have always been supportive of a woman’s right to choose.
Marilyn: Oh, well that’s -
RF: I’m not sure people know that, but in reality… but let me say, I respect people who have contrary views because of their strong -
Marilyn: I do, too.
RF: Yeah, their strong religious views.
Marilyn: I do, too, but if somebody, say, uses, say, Planned Parenthood because they need a mammogram or they need regular GYN care, rather than a private physician, that would not…what would be wrong… what’s wrong with that?
RF: Let me, I’ll be quite blunt. The Republican conference or caucus, and I respect their views, is largely pro-life. But I’ve been a supporter of Planned Parenthood for a long time.
RF:I think that the people in Morristown that run the operation there do some remarkable things to provide healthcare for women.
Marilyn: Yes, you’re right.
RF: But thanks for getting on the line. Thank you. Diane in Parsippany, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, you’ve joined my telephone Town Hall meeting. Diane?
Frank: Congressman Frelinghuysen, yeah, this is Frank Panetta, how are you?
RF: Well, Frank, thanks for getting on the line. You don’t have to give your last name, but where are you from? Parsippany?
Frank: Yes, I am.
RF: Okay, well, welcome on board, thanks for your patience.
Frank: Oh, not a problem. Congressman, this is a very general question. It has to do with the apportionment of Representatives in a bicameral legislature as we have in this country. It seems that dense states like New Jersey may be under-represented in the House. I want to know your thoughts on that, and are there any plans for any of the dense states to take a look and see if actual representation is fair as it is now, and if there’s any opportunities to change that to allow more urban areas to be better represented.
RF: Well, our Founding Fathers came up with a solution, which wasn’t perfect, and it took actually almost a decade to get it. We’re based, one man/one vote representation in the House of Representatives, based on population. So members of Congress, with the exception of maybe people from Wyoming and much smaller states, we represent approximately 730,000 people. So the counterbalance, because New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Delaware were smaller states as part of the original thirteen colonies, is that we do have two U.S. Senators. That’s the constitutional balance that looks after the needs of smaller states. But I can assure you that the twelve members of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation, both six Republicans and six Democrats, look after New Jersey and, shall we say, the North’s priorities, with a lot of pride and joint activity. Thanks for weighing in. Samantha in Morristown, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone Town Hall meeting. Hi, there.
Samantha: Thank you, my name is Samantha. I live in Morristown. I have been a supporter of yours even though I am a Democrat, in large part because I’ve always respected your moderate, pragmatic views, and your voting record of such. So as that type of constituent, I am concerned about your current voting record. I am so happy you’re doing this town hall so that we have this opportunity to hear your views. Of recent, I’ve been very concerned about the rise of antisemitism in our area, you know, nation-wide, but particularly here at home. We are such a diverse community. I, myself, am Jewish, and was raised here, and go to synagogue here, and I did see your statement regarding your disdain for this.
RF: And actually, I just authored a letter today to the new Attorney General, Sessions, saying that because there have been more instances at JCCs and synagogues, and particularly Jewish nursery schools, that we need to have more activity out of the Department of Justice to find out who’s responsible.
RF: And I think this is bi-partisan, of course. But I think the administration needs to step up its game and locate, if it’s a group or several individuals, who’s responsible? And bring them to justice sooner rather than later.
Samantha: Yeah, I agree so much with that statement. And also due to your position on the Chair of Appropriations, I’m looking at all of these issues facing our country. And seeing how much time and energy and potentially significant dollars will be invested in building a border wall, or getting 10,000 more ICE officers, when we have at home, essentially domestic terrorism towards the Jewish community. So, I feel like those issues are the ones that need more funding and more attention before we spend God knows how much on a wall!
RF: You should know that in the wake of September 11th, 2001, I was very much involved in something called U.A.S.I. – the Urban Area Security Initiative. This affects northern New Jersey, New York City, and shall we say, more populated parts of Connecticut. And so there are grants to Essex County Sherriff’s Department, Hudson County… Morris County Sheriff’s Department. And also there is some money set aside to protect synagogues on an application basis. I’m not sure how many, I think maybe there are maybe a half dozen in my Congressional District. I visit, you know, a lot of locations, a lot of schools, including you know Kushner Academy, Oak Academy, and you know, I do see a stepped-up presence in many synagogues and schools. And there is, there are some funds – not unlimited – which are there to provide some degree of security and I think reimbursement for security costs. But thank you for raising this issue. Yes? Oh, we lost you. Mary in Hopatcong, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. Thank you for joining my telephone Town Hall meeting.
Mary: Hello. I’m Mary -
RF: How are you? How are things up in Lake Hopatcong?
Mary: Good, well it’s not frozen that’s for sure, because, you know, hey, there’s climate change. So it’s not freezing anymore.
RF: I’m not a denier, and may I add? You have the head of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation down here. I know there are a lot of good things happening up there. It’s the state’s largest water supply, fresh water supply.
Mary: So what I wanted to know was, what is your feeling on what’s been going on environmentally with the new administration? With their wanting to get rid of the E.P.A., allow drilling on park lands. Where do you stand on that?
RF: Yeah, let me be blunt. I do think at times the E.P.A. not only makes the rules, but they also penalize people, perhaps deservedly, for things that they’ve done to harm the environment. But I do think some of the initial stories we’re getting out of – and they’re not fully explained – but there’s gonna be some major reduction in like, taking away a third of the U.S. Department of Environmental Protections’ budget. That’s not to say that there aren’t some instances of overreach of the E.P.A. around the country, and there’s a lot of resentment, particularly from western members of Congress. But whatever the President sends us does have to be scrutinized by the committee I chair, which is the House Appropriations Committee. It’s a very bipartisan committee. We have twelve committees, and one of the jurisdictions focuses on the continuing work of the Environmental Protection Agency. So there is a check and balance, and we on the Appropriations Committee are aware of the privilege we have – constitutional privilege – of the power of the purse. So they may suggest some things, but Congress in the final analysis will decide what these different agencies get in the way of any money.
Mary: Well then you’re -
RF: But thanks for registering. Ronald in Montville, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.
Ronald: Ronald in Montville?
RF: Thanks for your patience. Yeah. Is it Ronald?
Ronald: Yes, Ronald in Montville.
Ronald: Good afternoon, Congressman.
Ronald: I just want to let you know, I did vote for you this year. And I voted for Donald Trump and great Mike Pence to run this country because I like your visions. It’s an understatement that this country is very divided.
RF: Absolutely, yeah.
Ronald: Very divided. And there’s a lot that we have to accomplish here. And I’m glad that the Republicans have taken control of the House and the Senate. And having the President there, I’m very hopeful that within the next four years we can get a lot done. I am the grandson of an immigrant who came here, and came to this country under the rules that the country set forth. And my grandfather had to follow the rules before he was able to come onto a ship from Italy to come to this country, and follow all the rules. And to me, being born in this country, I find that there was nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with having rules and regulations to come into this country. We’re not, I’m sure that the President and yourself and the Vice President are not saying that there shouldn’t be rules and we’re not allowing anyone.
RF: Well, I think the President has put out quite a lot of Executive Orders. And I have to admit, I think he’s… I think it’s right to take a pause, taking a look at the seven countries where there’s actually lawlessness and no leadership. Syria and Libya come to mind. But I do think as bad as the rollout was, I do think most people, both Republicans and Democrats want a strong national defense. They want… more border security is the number one priority. But we want to do it in a way that obviously is respectful of people, whatever their race and religion or country of origin. So there were some bumps in the road in terms of that Executive Order on immigration. But I do think a pause for those seven countries was not a bad idea. It may be controversial. There were some issues relative to Green Cards that have been dealt with. But we still are a nation of immigrants, and I think certainly we support legal immigration, and we ought to be taking a look at where people are coming from to make sure that their motives for being here are positive. Thank you. Sal in East Hanover, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone Town Hall meeting.
Sal: Pardon me?
RF: Hi, how are you?
Sal: Okay. A few years ago, up in Budd Lake at my company, you came up <inaudible> cafeteria and gave us a talk up there.
RF: Yeah, I probably went to talk to your employees, right?
Sal: Yes, yes, you did.
Sal: Most of us were engineers up there, in space and navigation. Anyway -
RF: Well, I know where you are. You’re up in the International Trade Zone?
Sal: Yes. The gentleman speaking about immigration, my subject <inaudible>
RF: I’m sort of losing you, are you on your cellphone?
Sal: No, I’m on speakerphone.
RF: Okay, I’m listening.
Sal: Okay. Like the gentleman you were just speaking to, my grandparents came over and they went through Ellis Island. My thing is, and I don’t know what your feeling is, I heard some of it. Why should I have to pay for people that come over here illegally, and my taxes give them everything? That’s ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous. We have laws. And the past administration didn’t do anything about it. Now you got a guy that I love trying to get this straightened out, and I hope you’re in bed with him, because -
RF: Well, let me say that there were many instances where Eric Holder and others who were the U.S. Attorney General did not uphold the existing immigration laws. I think we need to uphold the laws we have. And I know the President is viewed in a punitive way, but in reality President Obama probably… I think he deported close to eight million people. So, I think we’re a nation of immigrants. I think we know the difference between illegal and legal immigration. I can assure you that where the President is aiming I think is the right way, but he needs to do a better job explaining exactly his rationale and make sure his Executive Orders are better executed and better understood. Mary in Morris Plains, you’ve joined my telephone Town Hall meeting, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. Hi there. Mary?
Mary: Hello, yeah, oh yeah. Hi. Mary in Morris Plains.
RF: How are you?
Mary: I was glad to hear you just tell that to the previous caller, that President Obama did in fact deport millions of illegal immigrants. I hope your previous caller heard that correction of yours. My question is about Donald Trump’s inexplicable failure to criticize, on any issue, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. I would like to know where you stand on the President’s tax forms and his failure to release tax forms.
RF: Well let me start with, certainly… I think he ought to release his tax forms. I understand, I’m not sure what the law is, but he says he’s not subject to doing it. But I do think all of his predecessors have done it. On Russia, I strongly just disagree with him. Putin is KGB. This guy is not a good person. He’s been involved, you know, obviously annexing Crimea. He’s been responsible and in collusion with Assad in Syria. I think probably responsible for killing over 400,000 people and obviously a huge refugee crisis of Russian making. And I think the Russians have been, you know, challenging our military all around the world. So I don’t view Russia or Putin as benign. They are highly destructive. They’ve been working to attack us and democracies in Western Europe through the political system, and they’ve been doing things in term of cyber attacks – they’re not alone. I don’t view… Putin’s a bad guy. I don’t think we ought to be dealing with him. And I think we ought to keep the pressure on him, and sanction him and his cronies, at every turn we can. I hope that answers your question.
RF: Louise in Hopatcong, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone town hall meeting.
Louise: I’m- my name’s Louise, I live in Hopatcong, and I went to one of- oh, congratulations on being Chairman of the Appropriations Committee- and you had a town hall in 2006 in Stanhope and I asked you a question about paying for the tax cuts which you guys had just come out with the year previous and you told me that you made a lot of money so you were going to benefit more from the tax cuts than I was, and I appreciated your honesty at the time-
RF: Well, I- maybe I meant- maybe I- that was at the American Legion probably, yeah-
Louise: I’m not done with my question, please.
Louise: I’m concerned about the fact that there is another tax cut pending, and we ended up in a lot of debt because the various actions that needed to be done militarily during the- two administrations ago that did not take into account having funding. My understanding is that Congress is now considering a great many more tax cuts, in particular for the very wealthy. And I’m concerned that we aren’t gonna be able to pay for what we need to do especially since the tax cuts that I can see have not really benefitted the rest of us. The only people that have particularly benefitted have been the ones with a lot of money. So I wanna know what you’re going to do to make sure that the rest of us don’t end up further in debt and without the services that we need because somebody feels like letting rich people have more money.
RF: Well, I’d like to see everybody have their taxes cut, and I think people feel, certainly in New Jersey, because we’re a high income tax that they’re under siege. And may I say our property taxes are some of the highest in the nation. I know that the Ways and Means Committee is looking at a variety of tax reductions, but we need to make sure that we also take a look at what those tax dollars are being used for. And part of the appropriations process is to make sure that the dollars that are collected for taxes from everybody are used in a manner where they can actually be validated and we can account for them. So I- the tax plan-
Louise: You did not an-
RF: What happened to her? Lynn in Randolph, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. We got cut off on the last one. Lynn, it’s Congressman Frelinghuysen-
Lynn: Yes, hello, thank you.
RF: Thank you for joining my telephone town hall meeting.
Lynn: Thank you much. I don’t see our seniors’, and I’m a senior, social security benefits going up any, but I do see our prescriptions going out of control. What can be done about that?
RF: Well, the social security increase, which I think for the last couple of years has been minimal, is largely decided- and I’m not an expert- by what’s called the, I think, the market basket of costs that are assembled by the US Department of Labor in terms of, you know, salaries and wages, of what food costs, what the lower costs of, generally, of gas and diesel, so to some extent that’s-
Lynn: It’s gone up tremendously, I work at a grocery store, and I’m 70 years old-
RF: Well, good for-
Lynn: -Just to try to make ends meet.
RF: Yeah. Well, I think certainly one thing we members of Congress agree on in a bipartisan manner is to preserve and to protect Medicare and make sure that the Social Security system which people pay into largely, 99 or 95 percent of those who draw on Social Security pay into it, there are some people-
Lynn: And I’m still paying Social Security, and Medicare and-
Lynn: And I have asthma and my prescriptions are over 300 dollars a month. And that is incredibly ridiculous for myself, and anybody else.
RF: Have- well, one of the benefits of our change which was not without controversy that we did cover pharmaceutical and prescription benefits what, 7, 8, 9, 10 years ago to provide that for seniors. Have you actually talked with- have you looked at alternatives to brand name drugs? Are you using generics? Have you worked with your pharmacist?
Lynn: Yes, and two of my drugs are not generic.
Lynn: Although they could have been, but they’re not.
RF: So, they’re not generic because of the physician who prescribed them or…
Lynn: No, because they’re not- no other pharmaceutical company has made an alternative.
RF: Would you do me a favor? I don’t want you to give me your name because that would sort of be breaking confidence. I would be happy to have my staff in Morristown follow up and take a look- obviously it’ll be handled in a confidential way- take a look at the drugs that you are required in order to keep yourself healthy. If you could call my office and talk to Ryan Gallagher in my office and he will make sure that we look into your case and see what we can do to see if we can assist you in lowering those prescription drug costs. If it’s 300 dollars a month, that’s a lot of money. If you call my office in Morristown, 973-984-0711, we’ll be happy to have a staff member talk with you, see what we can do to get those numbers reduced. Don in Kinnelon, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. Thank you for joining my telephone town hall meeting.
Don: Thank you for taking my call, Congressman. I appreciate the opportunity. First let me say that your family has long served this state and that’s commendable. And I’ve always appreciated the fact that you appear to be a moderate, almost the old fashioned Republican I grew up with-
RF: I still, believe it or not, I still am moderate and some people think I’m far too old fashioned, but I-
Don: Well, I think you and I are roughly the same age and the last Republican that I voted for for the Senate was Jake Javits and that was a long time ago.
RF: He was never described as a moderate, but he was a wonderful gentleman.
Don: Yeah, absolutely. My question is this: given the fact that I think you are a sensible fellow, and I think your long history in Congress demonstrates that. What do you make of this President who clearly- and a number of psychologists have said- his lying, his erratic behavior… He is clearly unfit to serve psychologically. It seems to me that you collectively in Congress, particularly initially in the House, perhaps, are going to have to come to grips with the fact that this man is not capable of being President of the United States.
RF: Well, I know some people have reached that conclusion, and I can assure you they’ve called my office and shared that view. Now, I do think quite honestly that the voters spoke last November. A decision was made and just from my perspective let me say I do think his view is good to focus on national security, getting Americans back to work. Has it been a rough 40 days here? It has been damn rough and I can testify to the fact that there’s a lot of anger and angst and people are concerned. I hear it. But let me just say that from my standpoint, chairing this committee, the Appropriations Committee which I sit is a bipartisan- we are a check and balance. I like to say we are an anchor, as the Appropriations Committee, in turbulent waters. And so to some extent I think we can’t moderate his behavior, but certainly knowing the direction in which he goes in terms of national security and getting Americans back to work, that’s not at all bad, so we’ll try to handle it.
Don: Except Congressman, it arises out of largely erroneous information. It arises when he says there’s a 46 percent unemployment rate or something, you know. Seriously, the man is not capable of being in this job.
RF: Well I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist. All I know is that my job is to make sure that our Commander in Chief, our President, succeeds and we’ll deal with all of the things and more things that will probably be coming over the transom over the next couple of months. Thank you. Gale in Boonton, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone town hall. Hi there.
Gale: Hi, this is Gale. I live in Boonton, and I’m retired and 74 years old and I’m very concerned about having Medicare changed. I don’t want to have to go looking for something like an Obamacare to replace it.
RF: There’s no plans on the drawing board to change Medicare. I know there’s been some speculation, but I mean, I don’t know any Republican or Democrat-
Gale: Nothing that says I’m going to be given like 5400 dollars to pick my own policy?
RF: There is no- I think even the President has said he’s not gonna touch the Medicare hot button. I’m not sure how he’s described it, but in reality I think most people in Congress, R’s and D’s, support preserving and protecting Medicare. That’s sort of a compact we made. Are there ways we can maybe get Medicare to be more efficient, more accountable, to make sure that, you know, the physicians that are-
Gale: Okay, just don’t do away with it.
RF: There’s no plans to do away with Medicare. I haven’t heard much of that drumbeat, but this is a- I think even the new President has said he’s not gonna touch Medicare so I haven’t heard of anybody suggesting that it would be touched, but thank you for weighing in.
Gale: Okay, thank you.
RF: Thank you. Mark in Stanhope, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone town hall meeting.
Mark: Yeah, so I wanna ask you about Obamacare. They pass this thing, they put it in. Don’t you feel it would be better if all the Senators and Congressmen and government employees were a part of it?
RF: Yeah, actually I am part of it. I’ll be quite blunt, I-
Mark: Well, everybody. I’m not saying just you, everybody.
RF: Yeah. Well, there is- I’m not sure whether you’re talking about a single payer system, but no, not everybody is subject to Obamacare. You have, you know, private employee plans, you have a lot of different-
Mark: No, no. What I’m saying is government; government employees. Nancy Pelosi. If she was involved, all these people who said, you know, we’ll figure it out later. Sign it now, and…
RF: Yeah, and then we’ll figure out what’s in it.
Mark: Right, right. So don’t you feel that if everybody got into the pool it would be better coverage for everybody, better-
RF: Yeah, I hope… not everybody is in the pool and quite honestly I can’t tell you who’s in it or not, all I know is I’m in it, because I’m in the Washington Health Exchange. And I used to have Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey and quite honestly it was, you’ll pardon the expletive, it was a hell of a lot better when I had that than what I have now. There are some people that are not in one of the Obamacare plans and you’re suggesting maybe it would be a good reality check if everybody was-
Mark: Well, rather than have everybody fighting to get out, if it was so good you’d have people fighting to get in.
RF: Yeah, well I’m not sure people are fighting to get in because what’s happened in many cases is that some people have had their insurance drop and those who’ve not had their insurance drop have been overtaken by huge premium increases and huge deductibles and have headed to the exit so they don’t have any healthcare coverage at all. Thanks for weighing in. Carol in Morristown, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone town hall meeting.
Carol: Hello Congressman. Thank you for taking my call.
RF: Thank you.
Carol: I appreciate the comments that you made earlier, where you view your committee of which you’ll be chair as part of the checks and balances, but I’m concerned that your voting record so far during this term of Congress has been 100 percent consistent with Mr. Trump’s wishes, and in particular you did vote to loosen the gun controls or provide easier access for people with mental health histories to obtain guns, and I’d like you to explain please your vote on that, and how the two statements about using your Committee as a check and balance and yet your own voting record doesn’t give me confidence-
RF: Just for the record, I think you know current federal law prohibits the possession or acquisition of firearms by people, certain individuals with a history of mental illness. The issue I have is that in the closing days of the administration- actually, I think the date was December 19th- the Social Security Administration actually published a final rule which required the administration to send certain names of those who received what they call SSI disability insurance or supplemental benefits to the National Institute- what they call the NICI- a background check system, I think it’s called NCIS. My view is: I don’t have any problem with background checks, but this was done without, basically with an end run around Congress, just in the last days. And quite honestly I think Congress does have a responsibility to take a look at these types of rules. It was an end run and so I condemned it through my vote there. But I certainly don’t support the notion that we would allow people with a history of mental illness to have weapons. That is the current law and should remain the current law. Gideon in Essex Fells, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.
Gideon: Yes, this is Gideon Asher in Essex Fells. Thank you for taking my call.
RF: Yeah, thanks for getting on.
Gideon: I guess, like last time, of course it’s wonderful that you’re doing this. It would be great if you could give people a little bit more notice that these calls are happening. I think you would get more participation.
RF: I think we’ve hopefully got good participation-
Gideon: Yeah, but that way people who want to participate could rather than just responding to a phone call where they may or may not be at home-
RF: Just FYI, just for your- a lot of it depends on when Congress is in session, so I try to do them, I’m certainly going to try to do them every week. Usually about the 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock period of time and sometimes there’s not much notice as to when we have votes. But I take your suggestion and appreciate it.
Gideon: Yeah, so I mean my question is, you talked earlier about your voting record and you also talked about your support of Planned Parenthood. And yet I believe that you voted, you passed it was HR Res 43 that allowed states to cut off Title X funding for Planned Parenthood. And I wondered if you could explain your vote on that. I guess I’m trying to reconcile support for Planned Parenthood, support for a woman’s right to choose with that particular vote.
RF: Well, as you know we don’t allow federal funds for abortions. I do think states should have some ability-
Gideon: That was HR7. That was your vote on HR7. This was HR Res 43.
RF: Yeah, I don’t have it right here. Yeah. I don’t have the bill there. In front of me.
Gideon: It’s a different vote. You voted to allow states to cut off Title X funding to Planned Parenthood. You’ve said earlier today that you believe in a woman’s right to choose, and you’ve also said that you support Planned Parenthood. And yet you voted to allow states to in essence cut their funding. It seems to me that those- it’s just the two things are diametrically opposed.
RF: Well that’s- you know, I respect your views. I have my views, and I believe in a woman’s right to choose, but then we obviously have certain federal prohibitions. And that- I agree on those federal provisions, notwithstanding my view that women should have this very essential right.
Gideon: Right, but I think we’re talking about two different bills, Congressman.
RF: I don’t have the bill right here.
Gideon: You voted for it. You voted for them. Maybe you just don’t look at what you’re voting for, but you voted to allow states to withhold Title X funding for Planned Parenthood.
RF: Alright, well, that’s… thank you for telling me what I voted on, I appreciate- I just, I don’t have the bill right in front of me here to comment any further, but thank you very much. Andrea in Denville, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen
Andrea: Hi, this is Andrea Clark from Denville, New Jersey.
Andrea: I’d like to ask about the situation that happened with Muhammad Ali’s son. It very much upset me as he’s an American citizen born and I’m not even an American citizen born, I’m just an American citizen by choice. And am I gonna have to suffer the same interrogation coming in and out of the country that I used to have to put up with when I wasn’t a citizen and a green card holder. You know, I’m really afraid to leave the country so I have to come back in because I have an accent that I am going to get interrogated or threatened or annoyed by these people who work for these federal programs that seem to attract these people who have, like, an issue or an agenda because they have a uniform and a job and work for the federal government.
RF: You asked about a particular case, is that right?
Andrea: Yes, I asked about, you know, Muhammad Ali’s son who is a born citizen of the United States.
RF: Mmhmm. Should not have been refused-
Andrea: Well, he was questioned for an hour and 45 minutes about his religion.
RF: Well, nobody should be questioning anybody’s religion. Is this the case-
Andrea: Yeah, but he’s a born- my point is, he is a born American citizen. I am a green card- I was a green card holder and I used to have to go through that shit every time I came in and out. Now I’m an American citizen, I’m still worried about coming in and out because I have a foreign accent.
RF: Mmhmm. Well, you shouldn’t have to worry.
Andrea: Well I am worried because of the- because we have failed to put somebody in the nomination who was reasonable like Mr. Kasich or Mr. Bush or even Mr. Cruz or Mr. Rubio. We failed. We ended at what we’ve got and we’ve now got to live with it for the next 4-8 years, and he worries me. Every time he opens his mouth he scares the shit out of me.
RF: Yup. No, I-
Andrea: He scares the shit out of my extended family.
RF: Yeah. Well, I should hope- I understand there’s a lot of anger and angst and concern with people and I hear you, I share your concerns, I- honestly, I don’t think he chooses his words carefully, and at times has obviously been involved in issuing executive orders that have not been thoroughly vetted, because- but I think this is a- I do err on the side of border security and national security, but I do think the administration needs to be far more careful about the language they employ relative to immigration.
It looks like we have time for one more question. After that those remaining on the line will be transferred into voicemail where you can ask questions and leave comments. I’ll listen to each message, but these telephone town hall meeting have had such great participation that I regularly receive dozens upon dozens of comments and I’m sure I will this evening. Please, you should know that your opinion is of value to me. Just a reminder, if you’d like to receive my weekly e-newsletter you can visit my website: Frelinghuysen.house.gov. Last question, from Andy in Randolph. Thank you for getting on the line, it’s Congressman Frelinghuysen.
Andy: Yeah, hi Congressman Frelinghuysen, it’s Andy. I live in Randolph and I want you to do the best you can to support President Trump and give him the benefit of the doubt. I think his style and language as you say was necessary to beat Clinton and I think that’s why he won. And I also think I want you to focus on cutting out things we don’t need in the spending category rather than finding new taxes like a border tax, and how do you feel about spending cuts versus new taxes?
RF: Yeah well the part of the budget which the House Appropriations deals with is what we call discretionary funding. It is not the entitlements of Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security is not an entitlement, but certainly it’s a special category and a compact between our nation and our citizens. So I’ve served on the Committee for a long time and I can tell you where cuts have been sustained, it’s not been on the entitlements side, which I do think needs some attention. It’s been on the discretionary side and many of the bills that I’ve authored reduce spending in some cases- this is 2017- to 2008 levels where we’ve made these departments live with less. There’s been far more accountability, we’ve used the government accounting office to review the operations of let’s say the Army Corps, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency. We’ve been making those types of reductions. I’m sure we’ll continue to do it when the President gets his 2018 budget through.
Andy: I have an idea for you for Social Security. Just let people have their money back and forego any of their interest and it’s sort of like buying out someone with a pension, let’s say and so make the system more balanced for every person that gets out. So you know, let people out of Social Security, get their money back and the people that want to stay in will have a healthier system remaining for them. So that’s an idea you can have for free.
RF: Yeah. Another idea is that there are people who come to our country obviously for a better life who after 6 months can qualify for SSI that have not ever paid into the system. I do think Congress has to take a look at what’s been pretty open ended over the last 15 or 20 years, maybe grandfathering those that have benefitted from this opening in Social Security. Social Security is a very important program, as are Medicaid and Medicare and we need to preserve and protect them, but if there are ways to tighten up discretionary spending I can assure you that our committee will be doing that as soon as the President presents his budget, probably not now, until maybe April or May. Just as a reminder-
Andy: Thank you.
RF: Thank you. I want to thank everybody for joining my telephone town hall meeting tonight. It’s been informative and beneficial and I look forward to doing it again soon. Thank you all for being on the line. Bye.